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2008 REGIONAL PREVIEW: CORAL GABLES & ANN ARBOR
May 27, 2008

SCS.com Last season was an off-year for Miami, as the Hurricanes made an early exit from the postseason. Apparently, that early exit must've fired them up, as Miami is the #1 overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes will be tested by Missouri, Mississippi, and Bethune-Cookman in their regional, and if they can make it through, will face the winner of the Ann Arbor regional being hosted by the Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines, who are the #2 seed at home, with Arizona making the long trip to be the #1 seed, with Kentucky and Eastern Michigan rounding out the quartet of teams looking for a potential matchup with the nation's top-ranked team. Both regionals should be exciting - will there be any upsets? Previews for both regionals are below.

CORAL GABLES REGIONAL
  vs ANN ARBOR Regional

The Field

(1) Miami (#1 National Seed)
The top-ranked Hurricanes (47-8) swept the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, and head into the regionals as the only team in the nation with less than 10 losses.
(2) Missouri
The Tigers (38-19) finished 4th in the Big 12 with a 16-11 record, and went 1-2 in the Big 12 tournament. This year's appearance in the postseason is Missouri's sixth straight.
(3) Mississippi
This is the first time since 2003 that Mississippi isn't hosting a regional. The Rebels (37-24) fell out of contention in the SEC by losing four of their last five conference series, but made it to the SEC tournament championship game as the #8 seed, where they fell to #7 national seed LSU.
(4) Bethune-Cookman
The Wildcats (36-20) are in the tournament yet again. After going 17-1 in the MEAC in the regular season, Bethune-Cookman swept through the MEAC tournament and beat Norfolk State 13-2 in the championship game.

The Venue

Miami has been playing at Mark Light Stadium in February of 1973, when the Hurricanes opened up the venue with a victory over archrival Florida State. The stadium currently has a capacity of 5,000.

The Best

Starting Pitcher - Aaron Crow, Missouri - Crow is one of the nation's top pitchers, boasting a 12-0 record, with a 2.56 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 98.1 innings. He should be one of the first picks in the upcoming MLB draft.
Runner-up: Chris Hernandez, Miami
Relief Pitcher - Scott Bittle, Mississippi - Bittle has been simply outstanding for the Rebels this season. In 26 appearances, he's 6-1 with a 1.63 ERA and eight saves, but more impressively, he's one of the nation's leaders in strikeouts - as a reliever, with high-school like numbers of 118 strikeouts in only 66.1 innings.
Runner-up: Carlos Gutierrez, Miami
Infielder - Ryan Jackson, Miami - The Hurricanes' sophomore shortstop has been stellar in the field this season, with a .977 fielding percentage. He's also one of the team's leading hitters, with a .365 average, 19 doubles, 2 homers, and 45 RBI.
Runner-up: Jemile Weeks, Miami
Outfielder - Blake Tekotte, Miami - The speedy Tekotte hasn't made an error in 92 chances in the field, and has had a stellar season at the plate, with a .371 average, 10 homers, 41 RBI, and 25 stolen bases.
Runner-up: Aaron Senne, Missouri
Homerun Hitter - Yonder Alonso, Miami - Alonso is in the midst of his 3rd straight excellent season as a Hurricane, and with his 22nd homer this season (he's currently on 21), he'll have 50 round-trippers for his collegiate career.
Runner-up: Jacob Priday, Missouri
Coach - Jim Morris, Miami - Morris is undoubtedly one of the top coaches in the country, having compiled nearly 1,200 wins at Georgia Tech (1982-93) and Miami (1994-present), and has led two of his Miami teams to national championships (1998 and 2001).
Runner-up: Mike Bianco, Mississippi

The Forecast

How tough of a road Miami has to a Super Regional all depends on if Missouri and Mississippi bring their best. Both teams have had their struggles at times in 2008, but when they're on top of their game, they're among hte nation's best teams, without a doubt. The matchup of Aaron Crow (Missouri) vs. Lance Lynn (Mississippi) on Friday would be a must-see matchup, but will the Tigers and Rebels save their aces for a showdown with the Hurricanes? Neither can take any chances on falling into the loser's bracket, so we'll see. An upset is possible, because Mississippi and Missouri do have the talent to make something happen, but the regional is Miami's to lose. But, don't count Bethune-Cookman - the experience that they've gained from perennially playing in the postseason should give them confidence about being able to hang with the nation's best.

The Predictions

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
Miami Miami Miami Miami

ANN ARBOR REGIONAL
  vs CORAL GABLES Regional

The Field

(1) Arizona
One of the preseason favorites for the national title, the Wildcats (38-17) finished 4th in the Pac-10 with a 12-12 record. They did have a strong finish to the season, winning 23 of their last 29 games after a skid from mid-March to early April.
(2) Michigan
The Wolverines (45-12) ran away with the Big Ten title, with their 26-5 record five games ahead of second-placed Purdue. Rich Maloney's club followed that up by knocking off the Boilermakers for the Big Ten tournament championship.
(3) Kentucky
The Wildcats (42-17) finished third in the SEC East with a 16-14 record, and make their second regional in the last three seasons. In their last appearance in 2006, Kentucky hosted and finished runner-up to College of Charleston in their regional.
(4) Eastern Michigan
The Mid-American champion Eagles started the season 0-17, so their 25-32 overall record might be a little misleading. The Eagles won the MAC's Western Division and went 4-0 in the MAC tournament, finishing off their run with a 12-4 win over East champ and #1 seed Kent State.

The Venue

Michigan's Ray Fisher Stadium has a current seating capacity of 4,000, and is named after Fisher, the school's legendary baseball coach who coached the team for 38 seasons and led the Wolverines to a College World Series championship in 1953. Michigan has been playing at the current site for more than 80 years, but has seen multiple renovations, including a $9 million one that was recently completed.

The Best

Starting Pitcher - Zach Putnam, Michigan - Putnam has excellent at the plate, but on the mound, he's a perfect 8-0 in 11 starts, with a 2.64 ERA and 74 strikeouts and only 21 walks in 71.2 innings.
Runner-up: Preston Guilmet, Arizona
Relief Pitcher - Daniel Schlereth, Arizona - Schlereth, the son of former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth, is one of the nation's top relievers. In 31 appearances, Schlereth has a 2-0 record, with a 1.73 ERA, and 73 strikeouts in only 52 innings.
Runner-up: Jason Stoffel, Arizona
Infielder - Ryan Wilkes, Kentucky - Wilkes has put together a terrific year at the plate (.374, 9 homers, 36 RBI), but UK's second-sacker has also been error-free in the field, with zero errors in 266 chances in the field.
Runner-up: Steve Bradshaw, Eastern Michigan
Outfielder - Collin Cowgill, Kentucky - Cowgill has come back from missing the entire 2007 season to injury to have a monster season (.359, 18 homers, 57 RBI, 23-27 stolen bases), and in the field, he has seven assists and only two errors in 110 chances.
Runner-up: Jon Gaston, Arizona
Homerun Hitter - Nate Recknagel, Michigan - Recknagel is one of the nation's leaders in home runs, as the senior first baseman has smashed 23 homers this season, three more than he had coming into this season. Recknagel is also the team's leading hitter at .372 and has driven in 68 runs.
Runner-up: Sawyer Carroll, Kentucky
Coach - Andy Lopez, Arizona - Lopez has had success at every stop he's made in his coaching career, starting with D-II Cal State Dominguez Hills in the 80s. Lopez won a national championship at Pepperdine in 1992, led Florida to two College World Series appearances, and by taking Arizona to Omaha in 2004, became one of an elite group of coaches that has led three teams to the CWS.
Runner-up: Rich Maloney, Michigan

The Forecast

This should be a very intriguing regional. Arizona will be coming into the regional on a high, after they ended the season with series wins over Stanford and archrival Arizona State, and if their bats and arms put it together like we know they can, a super regional could await. Preston Guilmet hasn't had the season he was expected to, and was shelled last Friday against ASU, so how well he throws in his outing could be a big decider for the Wildcats, because as good as their bullpen is with Schlereth, Jason Stoffel, and Ryan Perry, you don't want to use up your good arms too quickly. Michigan, however, will be looking to hold serve at home, and unlike last year, making the supers won't be a surprise, with all of the experience they have returning from that squad that knocked off #1 national seed Vanderbilt in Nashville. Kentucky's bats will definitely make them a factor, but they also boast a solid pitching staff (3.63 team ERA), and that could make a difference with the arms that Michigan and Arizona have. Don't write off Eastern Michigan that easily - they're familiar with Kentucky and Michigan (played both twice), and come into the regionals having played good baseball over the last couple of months.

The Predictions

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
Michigan Arizona Arizona Michigan

Read more from Eddie throughout the week at
www.NCAABaseballReport.com

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